An anonymous source recently revealed to me that he found out the secret ingredient that makes Pliny the Younger Triple IPA taste so amazing! He requested that I do not reveal his name, because he doesn’t want to be banned from Russian River Brewing for disclosing this information. He was lucky enough to score a permit to Yosemite National Park during Feb. 12-24, when the phenomenon known as “Firefall” occurs. During this time of year only, and during just the right time at sunset, the sun hits the water of Horsetail Falls just right, making the waterfall look like bright red flowing lava! After taking many pictures, he looked down at the bottom of the waterfall and saw something very strange. There was a man filling large containers from the waterfall! He couldn’t believe his eyes! So, he had to find out why the man was doing this, and walked over to talk to him. Turns out, the man was one of the brewers at Russian River Brewing, and he needed the water from that waterfall just at that precise time when it looks like lava, in order to brew Pliny the Younger according to the super secret recipe. We are all in shock that the man shared this sensitive information with my friend, but since that water is so difficult to find, this beer recipe is incredibly hard to duplicate. So, next time you enjoy a sip of that delicious IPA, just remember that it was brewed with extremely rare water from a phenomenon that only happens for two weeks once a year at one of the world’s most beautiful places! That really explains why Pliny the Younger tastes so incredible! This story inspired me to paint this new beer painting of Pliny the Younger in front of the “Firefall”.
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During my college days, studying art at Western Oregon University, located in Monmouth, Oregon, I spent a lot of time at the local bike shop. The shop was really cool! Located in a former gas station, it barely had enough space inside to store all the bikes. It was called Jon’s Bicycle Station. I met Jon the first day I arrived in Monmouth. The town wasn’t really that big, and I was, and still am, bicycle crazy. We became great friends! The shop was so cool, because Jon made it that way. Since he worked 6 days a week, and home-brewed every Sunday, we would ride every Tuesday at nighttime. We used powerful headlamps to go way up into the mountains, then turn them off and gaze at the stars. The rides were great, sometimes 23 miles long, and often just Jon and I. We would always meet at the shop, do a quick tune to the bikes, then have espressos, and load the bikes into his old 1970’s Ford F-250, driving a few miles to the logging area on the east side of the coastal range. After the ride Jon pulled out homemade burritos from an insulated cooler where he kept them warm. These were my favorite times in the Willamette Valley area.
My grandmother is from Newberg, Oregon, just up Route 99W from Monmouth. When I was a child, the whole family would often fly down from Alaska to meet up with the rest of the clan at the Oregon coast for a family get-together. We would normally stay in a rental house at Rockaway Beach, so I was no stranger to the Oregon coast. I think it is a really beautiful place on this planet! When Jon invited me to go to Pacific City to ride bikes and celebrate New Years Eve in a big rental house, I jumped at the chance. He would always get these incredible houses and invite all his riding buddies. Since I was a broke college student he didn’t ask much from me. I just had to show up and go for long road rides on Highway 101. Afterwards we would go to the Pelican Brewing brewpub. One time for spring break, Jon got this amazing house directly on the beach in Pacific City. It had a hot tub and a sauna, and 17 beds! The bunk room was impressive, with two levels of stacked beds with room for everyone. My roommate at the time brought his girlfriend’s whole family! We filled that house! I remember running to the ocean from the hot tub — it was so awesome! The Pelican Brewing brewpub was only about 1/2 mile down the beach from that house. Back in the day, the brewery only bottled beers in bombers. I remember buying as many as I could afford and taking them back for a big beach fire party! I did a couple of paintings at that house. The place was called the Wind Jammer on the rental listings. I don’t know if you can still rent it, but I do recommend getting some Pelican beers and walking down the beach!
Nowadays, the Pelican has a production facility in Tillamook, and the beers come in huge cans, six-packs, and still a few 22oz bombers. It’s not quite the same, but my love for Pacific City is still strong. If you happen to be in the area, the Grateful Bread Bakery is a good breakfast place, just get there early, as the cinnamon buns are all gone if you sleep in! Haystack Rock, and Cape Kiwanda Dune are really cool local geological features making this place stand out! I heard the surfing is as good as Oregon has to offer.
Cheers to Pacific City, The Pelican Brewpub, Jon’s Bicycle Station, and the Oregon Coast! You don’t have to go to Hawaii to have a great time on the beach!
This original oil painting, and signed prints are available at my Etsy shop.
Before the pandemic, going to a baseball game in a crowded stadium was possible. We used to also have weddings, and sometimes we even left our home state to go places. I went to a wedding in California to see my cousin get hitched back in 2017. Then we went to an amazing baseball game at Oracle Park (a.k.a AT&T Stadium) in San Francisco. I bought myself a Giants ball cap from a street vendor and my uncle had procured tickets for the whole family. My brother-in-law, and sister met us for pre-game beers at a local brewery called Cellarmaker. I always wait until the 7th inning stretch to buy a beer at a ball park, because they are kind of expensive. I can milk the abnormally large beer for the rest of the game, even if it goes into extra innings. I think I paid about $20 for my 20 oz beer, so that’s $1 per oz. This is not a particularly good price, but the selection was excellent. Lagunitas, Anchor, and 21st Amendment were available back when I was there. The Internet tells me that Local Brewing, and Russian River are on the menu now, or will be when we are all allowed back in the park. We had a great time, and I was really impressed when foul balls went into the Bay, and when gulls were dive bombing for hotdogs. The Giants didn’t win that game, but everyone wins with a 20oz brew and great live entertainment in the sun. I hope you get to go to your favorite ball park soon! I have a good feeling the 2022 baseball season will be closer to normal. In the meantime, buy the cardboard cutout for yourself, and make sure you have a beer in your hand to show how much fun you are having!
Cheers to getting back to normal, and in the meantime, live abnormally well, when you can!
This original oil painting, and signed prints are available at my Etsy shop.
One of my favorite places in Alaska is, and probably always will be, Arctic Valley Ski Area. If I could go back in time, I would probably have our wedding up there on top of the mountain. Recently, I became a lifetime member (thanks to my friend John Hickerson) of the Anchorage Ski Club, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1937. The Anchorage Ski Club operated rope tows up the mountain in Arctic Valley until 1961 when the T-bar was installed. The lifts were built in 1968 (Chair 1), and 1979 (Chair 2). The existing lodge was built in 1972. Arctic Valley is not only one of the most historic ski areas in Alaska, but also in the country, and the world. The lifts service about 1,350 vertical feet, and the outer areas wrap all the way around Rendezvous Peak!
Fast forward to today… Arctic Valley has been operating as a non-profit uninterrupted since 2003. The place seems to be operating more and more professionally every day. The management is doing a very good job with the facilities — refurbishing the T-bar, and keeping the lifts all running. There is currently a ski race team, a terrain park, a tube park, three operating lifts, and a rope-tow for beginners. The lodge has teamed up with 49th State Brewing Company to offer amazing food options, and the bar upstairs currently has 14 taps pouring local craft brews perfect for a mid-ski break. COVID tried to stop operations up there, and was successful last spring during the maximum shutdown order. This season the ski area has been successful at keeping the virus at bay with social distancing, limiting the number of lift tickets sold to 200 per day, and enforcing mask mandates. The latest improvement is several family pods inside the lodge that people can rent for the day if they want to have a semi-private, separate space indoors.
Last weekend, I hung seven paintings on those pods to spruce up the white walls. If you want to have a family outing I suggest buying lift tickets online, and renting a pod at the lodge. If you don’t like skiing, consider hitting the Tube Park, which is great for kids’ birthday parties. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you could just drive up and see Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Foraker, or even Denali on a clear day. I recommend checking out the rotating taps from around the state at the bar, and enjoying your brew with a view either inside the lodge, or out on the deck around a fire pit. I don’t think there is a beer available from out of state, except for the obligatory PBR in a can. I can guarantee the drive up the hill is always worth it! In March Arctic Valley will be open not only Saturdays and Sundays, but part of Thursdays and Fridays as well! I hope to see you up there. I normally wear a red jacket just like ski patrol, but sometimes I rock my silver uni-piece suit, or my fuzzy moose costume!
Cheers to the Anchorage Ski Club, Arctic Valley, and great AK beers after a day in the mountains!
You may have noticed that a lot of my beer paintings portray beer labels, which are often registered trademarks, protected by copyright laws, or whatever the legal terminology is. Most breweries are flattered by my paintings, and many of them have bought one, or more, but a few select businesses have decided to hold the letter of the law against me. Well, I haven’t actually been sued (yet), I’ve just received many “cease and desist” notices, and one phone call. The offended entities include, Heineken, a motorcycle group of thugs (I’d rather not mention its name), Dogfish Head, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and Naturdays. New Glarus Brewing called me to let me know they’re on to me, but said I could keep selling prints of Spotted Cow as long as I didn’t go too far. To be fair, when I met Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head, he told me he loves my Year of Beer Paintings series, so I think the “cease and desist” had nothing to do with Sam, and came from one of the brewery’s lawyers who had nothing better to do that day. The motorcycle thugs talked about litigation, after I questioned why they asked Etsy to take down my painting of Midnight Sun Brewing’s Fallen Angel only because one of the tags (SEO keywords) mentioned the group’s name. So they extra suck. I deleted the keyword, and renewed the listing.
Art should not be censored! The art I make with beers from breweries actually helps the breweries sell more beer. It is free and positive advertising. I write a blog post gushing over the brewery whenever I release a new painting. I have to like the beer to spend hours of my time making a painting of it, so of course my review will be positive. Many people who have purchased a beer painting from me have told me they buy way more of that specific beer after they hang the painting. It’s sticklers for the rules that just make life a lot less fun.
I only have one original oil painting left of the “censored” paintings. The rest all sold before they were discovered by lawyers. This Heineken painting (see below) is 12″ x 24″, oil on panel, framed in a natural wood frame. If anyone wants it, I’ll sell it to you for $195, and domestic shipping is on the house.
I hope you are staying safe, eating right, and drinking quality craft beer! I toast to the breweries who are supportive of the arts and know that partnerships and collaborations are the way to go!
Monday to Friday, before I head to the studio, I try to get in a workout in the morning. I do a 40 minute yoga/stretch/calisthenics session, followed by a 5 mile outdoor run; rain, or shine (or snow, or negative temps, since I live in Anchorage). This takes about 90 minutes out of my workday, but I guess that is my personal choice, since I am in charge of my own time. I have tried working out after painting, but I just end up not doing it. So, if I have a ton of commissions, I work late instead.
I want to tell you about the yoga/calisthenics I do. For the last couple of years I have been increasing my pushup count, and last week I hit 500 per day! It is a huge milestone, as I started by doing 50 per day. I break them down into 3 sets of 100, 2 sets of 75, and 1 set of 50. Between sets, I rest by doing a couple of arm and leg exercises, and core exercises as well. After the pushups are done, I do some stretches to prevent hernias, and some to prevent sinus infections. I finish up with some basic yoga poses. I took a time-lapse video of the whole process today and condensed the 40 minute session into 20 seconds. It makes me look a little twitchy, but I am attaching it to the blog anyway. I am hoping this inspires you to get out and do some workouts!
Stay healthy and stay strong!
I have yet another pandemic art show in full swing! I’m the featured artist at the Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. for the month of January! Indoor seating capacity is limited to 25% until who-knows-when, so I’ve created a virtual art show for those of you who don’t feel comfortable going to the venue in person right now. If you’re interested in any of these pieces, give the Loft a call at (907) 344-6653. Even if you live outside of Anchorage, you can still nab a piece, and I will personally mail it to you within the U.S. at no charge. All of these are one-of-a-kind, original oil paintings. They are all framed in natural wood frames, except Winter and Autumn, which have dark brown frames. More paintings and prints are available at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
Each holiday season I receive many requests for commissions that need to be done and delivered in time for Christmas. One of my favorite parts about working on these custom pieces is hearing people’s stories behind the painting concepts. Usually they send me a photo of a special beer they enjoyed with a best friend, or loved one, along with another photo of a place that is significant to both people, and then I combine the photos into one composition. Each detail has a meaning, and I am always glad to be part of creating a one-of-a-kind piece for a person who is caring enough to order a custom painting for a friend, spouse, or significant other. So, each year I publish a blog post to show you all the commissioned paintings I completed during the holiday season. Signed prints are available of Bourbon Paradise, and A Deal with the Devil paintings at my Etsy shop.
Can you think of anything unique, and significant to you that you’d like me to paint?
I’m currently having my second art show during a pandemic! The first one was in June at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., right after the brewery was allowed to open for on-site, indoor dining/drinking following the first shutdown. Right after that show ended, the Mayor limited restaurants and breweries to outdoor on-site consumption only. So I got pretty lucky on my timing. The show was surprisingly successful given the circumstances!
Fast forward six months, and I’m doing another art show during this pandemic, this time at Turnagain Brewing Co. I didn’t get as lucky on my timing for this one, because during December, we’re only allowed to drink beer outside per the latest hunker down order. Despite this obstacle, we decided to go ahead with the art show, but scaled it down just to the downstairs wall of the taproom, because people can still see the art while they go inside to order their beers. I hung original, one-of-a-kind oil paintings on the wall, and brought limited-edition prints and Beer Art Coloring Books to sell at the brewery. So far, I’ve actually sold some books, and prints, which is more than I was expecting.
I could have used this new hunker down order as an excuse to cancel the show, but I decided to push through this thing, and keep doing what I do, because I still can. Drinking beer outside by a fire pit is nothing new for Alaskans. Most of the breweries adapted quickly to the new restrictions, and put several fire pits outside, in festive beer gardens. I’m about to have my third pandemic art show, back at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., but in January I expect everything to open back up at reduced capacity, so maybe everyone can admire my art while eating and drinking inside.
~ by Maria Benner
In business school I was taught to react to a crisis that affects one’s business, but none of the case studies ever described a drawn-out external threat to the business that lasts nearly a year, like the current pandemic. Making and selling art for a living is already considered a risky career option, and people often remind us of that with their pessimistic and inappropriate questions about our finances when they find out we make a living from Scott’s art. So, when the pandemic hit, I felt especially vulnerable at first. We had art shows lined up at local breweries, and other than that, we were selling art online. When everything shut down at the end of March, we were pleasantly surprised as our Etsy sales more than doubled compared to the same time period last year. People were bored at home, and they were shopping. The building where we lease our studio was locked to the public, but we were still allowed to go into our studio, so we kept mailing orders, and Scott kept painting commissions, and new pieces for his upcoming art show in June at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. When everything opened back up, we swooped in and had a successful art show, despite the pandemic, before the brewery was closed again for on-site consumption for the month of August. Orders kept rolling in all summer, and we kept working.
I took advantage of having extra time to learn HTML and CSS, and built a new website for Real Art Is Better. I also combed through all the Etsy listings, making sure photos looked good, descriptions were correct, and keywords were optimized. There were a couple requests for proposals announced for public art in Alaska. I applied for two, and we were granted one, and Scott is a finalist for another one. He’s working on his final proposal right now.
We spent most of the summer in McCarthy, where the majority of businesses were open, including the gift shops in McCarthy and Kennecott. We sold art there all summer, and sales were only a couple hundred dollars lower than during normal summers. We also fulfilled a wholesale order for a book shop in Haines, and I now plan to build a wholesale program for the business.
We maintained our social media presence, posting updates every weekday, and sending e-newsletters every other Friday. Since we can’t travel, Scott has had extra time to work on oil paintings. He decided to paint a few pieces on canvas for a change (he normally paints on wood panel) and completed a large painting that sold right after the election. Having more time to try new techniques has been valuable to him. He also kept teaching painting lessons at the studio.
Then the Mayor of Anchorage announced a third hunker down order for the month of December, which is when we usually do in-person sales events like craft fairs. This year the craft fairs were cancelled, so I set up live painting/pop-up events at two local breweries. When I heard about the shutdown, we contacted Anchorage Brewing Co. and were able to reschedule one of the events for the Sunday before the emergency order went into effect. We also were able to go ahead with another event as planned at Odd Man Rush Brewing. Since the shutdown does not apply outside Anchorage, we scheduled a live painting/pop-up event at Bleeding Heart Brewing in Palmer for December 19.
Tonight we are hanging oil paintings at Turnagain Brewing, eventhough the taproom is closed for onsite consumption, but is open for to-go orders. The art show is scaled down to just one wall, but we’re still doing it.
There are several lessons I learned during the pandemic about running an art business.
- Keep working; making new paintings, posting on social media, sending e-newsletters, blogging, applying for public art projects, doing art shows, going to the studio every day. We didn’t cancel anything, were pro-active about contacting venues, and were available when people asked us to work on projects.
- Have a strong online presence and SEO.
- Be safe, but also show up whenever you can.
- Offer excellent customer service, including curbside pick-up, and free shipping.
- Be flexible enough to re-schedule events, or adjust how they happen so everyone stays safe.
- Just keep going…